LISLE — Doreen Barker never wanted to leave New York.
Originally from Dryden, a dairy town near Ithaca, Barker, 40, and Richard Barrows, 53, decided in early 2009 to bring animals back to the 350-acre, 165-year-old Barrows Farm in Lisle.
They started with chickens, adding cows — and the watering system and other infrastructure necessary to have them — in the coming years. They invested in rotational grazing, raised calves for meat to be sold locally and dreamed of soon having a value-added dairy operation.
Then they realized they simply couldn’t afford to do so.
Barrows and Barker likely aren’t the only farmers to come to that conclusion. According to the Agribusiness Friendliness Index, released early last year by three Colorado State University researchers, New York is one of the least friendly states in the country — ranked 49 out of 50 — when it comes to agribusiness.
“It’s most of the measures dealing with government that really seem to knock New York down,” said researcher Gregory Perry, who also is the head of the university’s Agricultural and Resource Economics department.
Perry said New York is 41st in property taxes, 46th in infrastructure and dead last when it comes to ease of filing a lawsuit — in other words, it’s easy for neighbors to take farms to court over nuisance smells and the like, and it’s hard for farms to win.
Joe Morrissey, public information officer for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, doesn’t agree.
“We couldn’t disagree more with this report’s findings about New York, which we believe has a thriving agricultural sector thanks in great part to a strong partnership between state government and industry,” he said in an email. “In fact, New York farmers set a record in 2013 with $5.68 billion in cash receipts, which was more than $1 billion (more) than just three years earlier. New York is also a national leader in dairy, maple syrup and apple production, and we rank in the top 10 nationally in a number of fruit and vegetable categories.”
Morrissey said over the past four years, the state has set forth policies, passed laws and initiated marketing programs that have led to an all-time high interest in New York agriculture. They include:
• Launch of the Taste NY marketing program;
• Revamping of the farmland protection program;
•Legislation on the first-ever farm cidery and farm brewery license, as well as the Craft NY Act to further the growth of the farm-based beverage industry;
• Legislation to cap agricultural land assessments at 2 percent per year, ensuring a predictable tax climate for farmers; and…